Project Management Institute

Public service



Politicians make promises, but project managers deliver them. In many cases, the true legacy of any government administration is the public works it delivers—and how well it addresses stakeholders’ needs.

Given the reality that future government efforts may be funded predicated on the latest successes, project managers must walk the line between strict government operating procedures and “customer” perceptions of progress. For example, e-government Web sites often compete with private sector e-commerce pages for surfers’ attention, and as a result, the latest findings of the e-Government Satisfaction Index shows declining approval (35 percent) for government portals. Given the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's evolving guidelines that require e-government sites to be citizen-centric, the bar has been raised.

PM Network spoke with project managers in the government sector about the state of the profession, sharing interdisciplinary knowledge and meeting taxpayers’ high expectations.



Margareth Carneiro, PMP, has more than 20 years experience in IT projects, including the first project in Brazil to develop voting machines. She is founder and first president of the PMI Distrito Federal Chapter, chair of PMI’s Government Specific Interest Group, and a recipient of PMI’s 2004 Distinguished Contribution Award.

James Rispoli is director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Engineering and Construction Management, based in Washington, D.C., USA.


Tim Rahschulte is ITS manager of Information Technology Services for the Oregon Employment Department, Salem, Ore., USA.


Linda Salac, PMP, is lead business analyst for Nebraska's Health and Human Services System. She has been employed by the Nebraska Department of Health for more than 20 years. Ms. Salac also is interim vice chair and marketing director for the PMI Government Specific Interest Group.


PM Network: How can the project management community promote best practices in the global public sector?

Linda Salac: We must insist on having one-on-one dialogue and bring awareness about the importance of project management with foreign ministers and appointed public administrators in governments from other parts of the world. We must be able to articulate the value of project management processes on government projects.

Project management is getting noticed in many parts of the U.S. inch-by-inch. In recent years, numerous bills were introduced such as the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), the President's Management Agenda (PMA), the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) and many others. However, the impact of this legislation has not been effective in terms of helping in mandatory compliance of acts such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

A culture of excellence in project management will set the tone for our efforts and for our future, to build and to recognize that, as public servants, we recognize our commitment to quality.

Margareth Carneiro: Project management can make a difference in government when dealing with public money, being more effective and using transparent indicators to monitor and evaluate the results. Nowadays, [Brazil's] Minas Gerais State is a good example.

On the other hand, project management is not a consolidated concept in government, as are financial, human resources and marketing areas. Lack of continuity is the greatest weakness in the government's adoption of project management practices.

PM Network: Which lessons are most readily transferable to other industries?

James Rispoli: In the Department of Energy (DOE), one of our greatest strengths is that we're able to define a common process that can be tailored to various types of projects. We also drew upon the Project Management Institute's knowledge of project management competencies and designed an experience—and competency—based certification program to help us recognize and designate a cadre of individuals as certified project managers.

Carneiro: We use key success indicators (KSI) when dealing with international projects involving financial banks, for example. Being on time and on budget is relevant, but what really matters is delivering on expectations. The same practice should be used more often in other industries, like IT, for example.

Sometimes, government professionals are not as fast as other project managers, but they are more careful about cultural interests and political aspects. On the other hand, employment stability of government employees sometimes leads to lack of commitment to the projected results.


BUDGET: $4.1 million

PURPOSE: This Brazilian development project, which essentially creates competitive business clusters in industrial districts, is meant to strengthen the viability of small enterprises, applying lessons derived from the international community and markets.

GOVERNMENT OWNER: Brazilian Microenterprise and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE).

KEY STAKEHOLDERS: Small enterprises producing goods and services in four Brazilian cities (Nova Friburgo in Rio de Janeiro, Paragominas in Pará, Ara-cajú in Sergipe, and Campina Grande in Paraíba), Sebrae, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank.

TIMELINE: Five years

PROGRESS: SEBRAE, which is a private, nonprofit institution created to support business development activities, consists of a national office in Brasilia and one agency in each of the country's 26 states. From 24 proposed clusters in different sectors and geographic regions of Brazil, SEBRAE selected seven to be analyzed in greater depth by independent consultants.

The project targets four areas:

The Nova Friburgo Lingerie Industry Corridor (Rio de Janeiro), which has a share of approximately 20 percent of the domestic production of lingerie, with nearly 600 formal and informal production establishments.

The Campina Grande Leather Goods and Footwear Corridor (Paraíba), which comprises 147 registered enterprises and 468 informal enterprises.

The Paragominas Wood Products and Furniture Corridor (Pará), which has 70 units made up of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The Tobias Barreto Linen and Clothing Corridor (Sergibe), which is included in the pilot program but SEBRAE is paying for the improvements directly.

In these areas, the major weak points among the small enterprises are fairly uniform. They have limited access to financial and nonfinancial services, difficulty in defining a production strategy at the product or sector level, limited entrepreneurial ability, a low technological level and an unsatisfied demand for support services. The program seeks to strengthen industrial district dynamics, provide greater market information, better organize production activities and grant small enterprises access to international markets.


A program management committee meets quarterly to advise the program executing unit, identify opportunities for better dissemination of the program, and review and approve the semiannual progress reports, as well as a midterm evaluation.

Program execution is monitored through semiannual activity reports that contain technical assistance received by the companies; training performed, performance indicators based on the logical framework indicators; and corrective actions taken in the event of failure to meet any of the program objectives.

TODAY: Until now, the monitoring system has shown that the regions had a successful history of improvement and development, and the outlook is optimistic for project completion in 2006. The success of this pilot program is the basis for a new project in partnership with Japan that will initiate in some months based on the lessons learned from this project.


BUDGET: $1 Million

PURPOSE: Scan and electronically index more than 1.5 million vital paper document records. The system included an integrated automated cash register that has a seamless interface to the imaging system.

GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT/OWNER: Bureau of Vital Statistics, now known as Vital Records Management, with the State of Nebraska Health & Human Services—Finance & Support Agency.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS Nebraska citizens

TIMELINE: 2.5 years

PROGRESS: In 1995, when new state and federal mandates required birth certificates be used to verify birth, the Nebraska Bureau of Vital Statistics saw a significant slowdown—processing the requests went from three days to as many as 10 days. Workers had to manually perform up to 27 tasks and spend as much as 45 minutes to process a single request for the paper documents.

THE SOLUTION: An automated optical imaging system, which integrates document management, workflow and cash management, serves all people born in the state's 93 counties and 84 birthing hospitals who requested birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates. Successful delivery required early executive commitment, a detailed plan and stakeholder buy-in.

To ensure funding requirements were met, information was gathered from a number of experts, including a technical and records management analyst from the Department of Health, a budget and legal expert from the Nebraska governor's office, and a business and systems analysis from the director of Kansas’ Center for Health and Environmental Statistics, which already had implemented an imaging system in vital statistics. In addition, a vendor assisted with a cost-benefit analysis at no cost.

When the project was presented to the state appropriation committee, the project team presented legislators with examples of the older deteriorated documents as well as an optical disc illustrating how the new system would work. In addition, three funding options were offered, including the one that was approved: increased certificate fees over four years.

TODAY An updated system will be fully operational by 2006, when the optical imaging system will be merged into the new system called Electronic Registration System II.

Tim Rahschulte: A significant and transferable lesson is in planning and scope management. Some projects within government are legislatively mandated and must be done. Government mandates coupled with governmental budgets being constrained and scrutinized, project budget overruns at the Oregon Employment Department are rare because project managers are responsible for their budgets and are overseen by a steering committee and budget team. This governance structure does not prevent budget overruns, but proper planning and scope management does.

On project management-led initiatives, the Oregon Employment Department works collectively with vendors and internal teams to clearly, and in great detail, define the scope and cost of the project. Cost contracts are regularly written as “not to exceed” costs, with contractual obligations tied to timing and completion of major project events or milestones. This keeps the entire team focused on scope and schedule. The governance structure is used, as needed, to reinforce these project drivers.

PM Network: Is there a best practice of the private sector that is sorely needed in the government sector?

Rispoli: Regular face-to-face project management performance reviews. In my private-sector experience, we would do these types of reviews, using objective data on performance, to review our projects monthly. The combination of written reports derived from the suite of tools, coupled with periodic face-to-face reviews, would make any agency's management of projects more effective.

In the DOE, we require and strongly advocate periodic performance reviews of this type. At the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, DOE holds its own monthly project status reviews with DOE staff only, as well as monthly project reviews where the contractor reviews project status and identifies issues requiring DOE involvement.

PM Network: Taxpayers often are the most visible, yet hardest-to-reach stakeholders. What is the best way to ensure they agree with the scope?


Through technology, government truly can be accessible to all people. To get a taste of the future, PM Network spoke with Jean Clark, chief operating officer, Arizona Department of Administration, and president of the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC), which works to identify best practices for strategic change within government.

What are the key issues for e-government?

Today, technology and the “e” are incorporated in every business process within government. However, what's new is dealing with the issues and problems in fine-tuning the “e,” such as:

Proving the Business Case. There is fierce competition for limited resources, and a compelling business case is needed before the government will support and invest in a project. Budgets are much tighter and government continues to do more with less.

Accomplishing Cross-Boundary Cooperation and Coordination. Traditional programs and projects evolved in stovepipes while e-government-type projects typically involve multiple stakeholders across different boundaries. From a business perspective, this means cooperating to show a “single face” to the customer (citizen) and emphasizing the enterprise. From a technical perspective, this means application interoperability and data exchange.

Adopting a Technical Approach that Supports Multiple Technologies. This means solutions based on open architectures and open standards.

Where will initiatives be focused over the next 10 years?

There will be a continued emphasis on the enterprise. It will take a long time to replace the stovepipe systems with a true enterprise system.

In addition, pushing customer-facing soLutions out to the end user—such as promoting Web, telephony and kiosk—will continue, as well as the emphasis on improving internal operational efficiency.

What technology projects will revolutionize how people interact with government?

Transformation of service delivery and how government delivers its services has barely started and will continue to be a prime focus for the next several years. The deveLopment of technologies such as mobile computing, radio frequency identification and artificial intelligence can and will fundamentally change service delivery. Information and transparency of government also will take center stage. Sarbanes-Oxley-type accountability in the government sector is just beginning, and it should spread throughout the public sector. As more sophisticated technologies for business intelligence become widely deployed, citizens will want to query government databases to get answers to their questions on their own terms and at their own time of convenience.


As a result of information and transparency, the traditional democratic methods are likely to change as a new generation of enabling technologies and technology-savvy citizens comes to dominance. Many people believe the changing relationship between the voting citizen and government will profoundly impact the evolution of government.

Rispoli: Some agencies’ primary function is to perform work and deliver projects that are for the direct use of the public. Things such as national parks, highways, waterway improvement projects and environmental projects are intended for use by the public at large. In most instances, agency intentions are published and provide a method for input from the taxpayers.

The DOE has a number of projects that are of great interest to the communities in which we have installations. At Rocky Flats, as at most environmental management sites, advisory boards like a citizens’ advisory board and a coalition of local governments are fully involved in reviewing documents and some decision-making relative to site cleanup/closure. Additionally, many crucial documents are made publicly available for review and comment. DOE and its contractors regularly participate in public meetings explaining work status, documents and decisions to the public, i.e., the taxpayers.

Rahschulte: The taxpayers are our customers, and we hear from them directly and through our legislature. The Oregon Employment Department works closely with our legislature on budgetary issues and major projects. Agreement with scope occurs based on sound use of financial and personnel resources. As we have consistently delivered successful projects over the past few years, our reputation with the legislature has been bolstered. The best way to agree on scope is to provide reasons for the project deliverable and prove it can be delivered.


BUDGET $3.973 billion

PURPOSE: A large former nuclear weapons site is being safely cleaned and closed.

GOVERNMENT OWNER: U.S. Department of Energy

KEY STAKEHOLDERS: State of Colorado, Environmental Protection Agency, Congress and the public

TIMELINE Six years

PROGRESS: A shutdown of nuclear operations at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in 1989 left large quantities of plutonium and other hazardous substances in various stages of processing and storage. In addition, some past practices of waste disposal and material storage posed potential environmental and health risks. It was estimated that the cleanup would require more than $36 billion and take 40 years.

The Department of Energy (DOE) needed to stabilize and consolidate radioactive and hazardous materials and ship them off site, deactivate and decommission 745 buildings and supporting facilities and clean up contaminated sites—as quickly and safely as possible.

In January 2000, DOE and its contractor signed a new cost-plus-incentive fee contract to complete the project by 15 December 2006 and at just under $4 billion. Key concerns included unprecedented treatment and disposal of some wastes, a cooperative working relationship with stakeholders, quick regulatory approval for the accelerated cleanup, and keeping the public and various boards, including a citizens’ advisory board and a coalition of local governments, involved in all decisions.


Just as all other projects, the DOE evaluates the cleanup on a monthly basis, drawing upon a standard set of indicators of project performance. The same tools used for management at the site are used to indicate performance at the DOE headquarters.

At Rocky Flats, as at most environmental management sites, advisory boards like a citizens’ advisory board and a coalition of local governments and regulatory authorities are fully involved in reviewing documents and some decision-making relative to site environmental cleanup and closure. Additionally, many crucial documents are made publicly available for review and comment.

TODAY: The project is 7 percent ahead of schedule and 6 percent under planned cost. The expected estimate at completion will be under $3.5 billion (significantly below budget) and all physical work completed by early 2006. Overall, the project is 84 percent complete.

PM Network: How do you communicate success and failures to the public?

Rahschulte: The Oregon Employment Department measures success based on project standards such as timeliness, scope and quality, and cost. Additionally, we measure success based on customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction—our uniform and paramount value driver is satisfaction. Successes and failures are communicated internally and externally to the department through lessons-learned reports and presentations.

Carneiro: To measure success, you have to understand what stakeholders consider success. To really learn, we have to avoid manipulating the indicators of success and failure.

As a professional, I must admit that I have to force myself to think about that in my regular projects. Sometimes we are so avid to finish the project that we forget to measure the results. It is important to state the service levels and expectations of the customer when planning the project. PM


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